Dennis looked up from his frustrating crossword towards the train platform sign. Changeover two stops away. Already twenty minutes late.
It was only 9.30am but it had already been a long day. Family issues with him not going home for his mother’s 67th birthday due to being at the conference he was going to. His brother had told him he should go,”you hadn’t seen her in years, you ought to appreciate her” etc. He said he couldn’t. They disagreed.
Bloody needy mums! She’d always been like that, even before Dad kicked the bucket.
And his wife was on at him too. Apparently he “wasn’t spending enough time with the family” because he was a workaholic. What the hell would she know? She was spending all his money anyway. There was a reason why he was working so hard. They disagreed.
Two arguments, and the day hadn't even passed 9:30. That sure bodes well, don’t it?
The dinging of the train doors as they opened on Dennis’s stop made him jump, his pumped-up anger only exacerbated by the surprise. Heaving his heavy laptop baggage and slinging it wearily onto his back, he stepped onto the cold platform and sat on an even colder bench, the early morning sun deliberately trying to warm up the day as slowly as possible.
Simply to pass the time, he reached into his pack and pulled out a hurriedly-made ham sandwich. He shoved it into his mouth, immediately spat it out and looked through it.
Goddamn it! Frigging mould! He threw the sandwich on the ground. So much for lunch; the other sandwich he made probably had mould in it too.
He looked around to see what else he could be angry at. He slugged his bag exhaustedly down by his feet.
A bird near the other end of the bench eyed off the sandwich he’d discarded.
“You think you got problems? Your life is bloody Christmas compared to my shit! Stupid bird,” he snarled.
The bird began to move towards the sandwich. As its foot moved, Dennis saw its left claw was deformed grotesquely; swollen, puffy and pussy; so bad the bird couldn’t stand on it. It limped, quite clearly in agony, towards the sandwich.
As Dennis looked closer, he saw its leg has some sort of string - it looked like fishing line - cutting tightly into its flesh. The bird finally arrived at the mangled sandwich that was strewn across the platform. It tried to lean down to pick up some ham, but its twisted leg was making it difficult. The more it tried to lean down, the more the fishing line cut into its body.
Finally, the bird grabbed the ham, and in one jerking motion, lifted its head and gulped it down. Dennis looked at its eyes, and for some reason, he thought he could see gratitude. He’d never really looked so much at a bird like that before, but it was staring right back at him as though this was the first meal it had eaten in days.
He exhaled, amazed by its tenacity. The bird was still trying to pick up more food in its beak. Despite its clear disablement, it was enjoying every single slither of ham that it was waffling down.
Dennis leant forward slowly. The bird was alert, watching his every move with cautious interest.
“If only I could get that fishing line off its foot,” he thought to himself. He stood up slowly. The bird flew off.
Bugger! He sat down again, his mind suddenly calm.
He looked at the rest of the mangled sandwich on the ground, quietly and consciously hoping the bird would return to finish it.
He thought about what he had said to it. Idiot. He shouldn’t be complaining. His problems were trivial compared to that. Look what he had; a wife, kids, a loving family, a steady job. And that mattered so little to him only a moment ago?!
Dennis sat solemnly, feeling a combination of embarrassment for his hissy fit and shame for his selfishness. He looked around. No one else was on the platform. He still felt like an idiot though.
He looked at the pavement, then back up towards the train sign. Next train in two minutes. “So soon?” he thought. At least he has a job to go to that he enjoys.
He suddenly had an idea. He grabbed his laptop and plonked it down next to him on the bench. It didn’t seem so heavy anymore.
He rummaged through his bag, navigating the labyrinth of pens, erasers, his wallet, the computer and used gum packs before pulling out his phone. He dialed a number.
It began ringing…. Hope she picks up…
“Hello?” Mum’s voice chirped back to him. She seemed thrilled to hear from him.
“Hey Mum, I just wanted to wish you a very happy birthday.”
First time he’d felt happy all day. That sure bodes well don’t it?